“Among other missions,” writes DI NASA program manager Jim Snowden, “our team flies to Russia to pick up U.S. astronauts returning via the Russian Soyuz capsule from the International Space Station.”
DI team members participated in NASA astronaut Kevin Ford’s return to the United States after 142 days aboard the International Space Station. Ford returned to Earth via a Russian Soyuz space capsule and landed in Kazakhstan March 16. The next day he was flown back to the United States in a specially equipped NASA Gulfstream III, maintained and crewed by NASA and DynCorp International team members. The mission was commanded by NASA Aircraft Operations branch chief pilot Bill Ehrenstrom and piloted by DI’s Tom Ryan.
Prior to the mission, DI mechanics James Molina, Scott Leonard, Johnny Scott, Mike Brown and Keith Halkard worked diligently to de-configure the aircraft from a recent research mission and then configure the aircraft for this “Direct Return” mission. The work entailed removing racks of research equipment, interior furnishings and other support equipment. Then the team installed beds, chairs and medical equipment to support the astronaut’s trip back to the U.S.
In addition to preparing the interior, the mechanics completed scheduled maintenance to ensure top performance for this important mission. Mechanic Johnny Scott accompanied the aircraft to provide servicing and maintenance as needed. Support provided by all of the DI mechanics ensured the mission was successful and the aircraft was able to provide safe, reliable and comfortable transportation for the aircrew and passengers.
The next astronaut Direct Return mission is planned for mid-May. In the meantime, the aircraft will be reconfigured to resume research missions across North and Central America.
DI has provided aircraft maintenance and support for NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – since June 2012. Services include support for flight operations; maintenance, repairs and alterations to aircraft, component parts and support equipment; and engineering services. DI also supports spaceflight readiness training, airborne research and development, and flight test support. DI employees are based in Houston at Ellington Field, where NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located and at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.